Nearly a year after the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, President Joe Biden signed the next — and perhaps last — coronavirus stimulus package.

“This historic legislation is about rebuilding the backbone of this country and giving the people of this nation, working people, the middle class folks, people who built the country a fighting chance,” Biden said Thursday, The New York Times reported.

The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act passed the House on Wednesday and became law just days before federal unemployment benefits expire on Sunday, according to NPR. An earlier version of the bill survived a partisan vote in the House last month.

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On Saturday, a vote-a-rama of amendment deliberations in the Senate lasted 11 hours and 50 minutes, setting a record for the longest vote in the chamber’s modern history, Business Insider reported. Democrats eventually passed the Senate version of the rescue plan 50-49 in the evenly divided chamber.

“When we took office 45 days ago, I promised the American people that help was on the way. Today, I can say we’ve taken one more giant step forward in delivering on that promise that help is on the way,” Biden said in the press conference after the bill passed the Senate Saturday, CNBC reported.

“This plan will get checks out the door starting this month to the Americans that so desperately need the help,” said the president.

In a tweet earlier this week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said House Republicans who had previously voted against the bill “have one more opportunity” to support the bill this week.

“The American people want faster vaccine distribution, money in their pockets, and help to get kids back to school safely so America could get back to work,” Pelosi encouraged.

Republicans, like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, criticized the huge stimulus package for its “non COVID waste” and allege that less than 9% of the bill actually supports coronavirus relief. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., accused Democrats of “exploit(ing) the crisis by jamming through unrelated liberal policies.”

Absent from the Senate’s version of the bill — and ultimately not in the final stimulus package — is an increase of the federal minimus wage to $15 an hour. The federal minimum wage hike had been a priority of Democrats and was in the House’s original version of the bill, but was determined by the Senate parliamentarian — who interprets the Senate’s rules — as outside the scope of the Senate budget reconciliation process.

So what is actually in the bill?

Targeted stimulus checks

The American Rescue Plan will provide $1,400 stimulus checks to individuals who earn less than $75,000 and twice that to couples who earn less than $150,000, The Washington Post reported. Households will also receive another $1,400 per dependent claimed on their taxes.

These will be the largest single checks Americans will have received during a year’s worth of pandemic stimulus, but the income threshold is lower than previous direct payments, according to the Post. Those who earn more than $75,000 will receive increasingly smaller direct payments, which will be entirely phased out for individuals that earned $80,000 a year and couples making $160,000.

The Post has also created a digital tool — a stimulus payment calculator — to calculate what a household’s total stimulus payment will be.

Raise child tax credit, for now

The bill also raises the child tax credit and provides periodic payments — essentially a “near-universal child allowance” — for the next year, The Wall Street Journal reported.

“The plan would raise the $2,000 child tax credit to $3,000, set the credit at $3,600 for parents of children under age 6 and make parents of 17-year-olds eligible. It would also make the credit fully refundable, so low-income households would get the full benefit, no matter how little they earn. For a household with a 4-year-old and 7-year-old that doesn’t earn enough to pay income taxes, the plan would boost their maximum child tax credit to $6,600 from $2,800,” according to the Journal.

In the past, President Biden has expressed support to permanently raise the child tax credit as a way to help combat poverty.

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Unemployment insurance

The rescue plan includes weekly unemployment payments of $300 that will last until Sept. 6. The inclusions was a compromise among Democrats for the vote of moderate Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., which gave Democrats the 50 votes they needed to pass the rescue plan, The Hill reported.

The original House bill had included $400 weekly unemployment payments that would have lasted though late August, according to The Hill.

“The Democratic agreement also omits $10,200 of unemployment benefits from federal income taxes for households with an income of less than $150,000,” The Hill reported.

Federal, state and local government help

Tens of billions of dollars have been earmarked for federal, state and local governments directly researching, testing and vaccinating against the coronavirus, according to The Wall Street Journal.

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That funding includes:

  • “$8.75 billion to federal, state, local, territorial and tribal public health agencies for distributing, administering and tracking vaccinations, with some funds specially dedicated to making sure the vaccination process reaches underserved communities.”
  • Around $20 billion for federal biomedical research and therapeutic development.
  • Around $3 billion to add the vaccine to the strategic national stockpile — a federal program used by federal and state governments in public health disasters.
  • $25 billion for “testing, contact tracing and reimbursing hospitals for lost revenue related to the pandemic.”

The bill also includes “about $130 billion for schools” and “funding for colleges and universities, transit agencies, housing aid, child care providers and food assistance,” The New York Times reported.

Health care assistance

The rescue plan “temporarily increases subsidies” for Americans buying Affordable Cares Act health care and includes “billions of dollars for public health programs and veterans’ health care,” according to the Times.

The stimulus bill will also cover “the full cost of premiums through a federal program called COBRA through September,” the Times reported. COBRA — or the “Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act” — gives workers who lose their jobs the opportunity to temporarily keep their health care plans.

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